Monday, January 2, 2023

How Well You Plan Now Will Affect Your Fruit Harvest in the Fall

Planning is something that I don't do well. To do it well, you have to have some historic data and live in a bit of an echo chamber, where this year will have some resemblance from last year and the year before that. If not how can you possibly look into the future? When it comes to producing fruit, there are some things that you can count on happening each and every year, and some things you can't.

Pruning Shears

Let's start by discussing the things you know will need done this year to make sure your trees produce well.

Pruning

Every spring you will need to make sure that your trees get a good pruning. I have written several articles about this topic, so instead of detailing when to prune, how to prune, and how often it needs done, I will just give you links that answer these questions.

When is the best time to prune fruit trees?

How to prune fruit trees in 9 simple lessons.

How often do fruit trees need pruning?

Fruit tree pruning calendar.

Fruit Tree Pruning Calendar

Dormant Oil Spray

If you prune your trees at the optimal time of year, then you can immediately apply a dormant oil. This way you don't waste product on branches that you plan on chipping into compost.

When your tree starts to wake up from dormancy you can be sure that the pests that feed on your tree will be waking up too. I don't believe in blindly spraying trees without knowing what you are spraying for and why, but a dormant oil is a good preventative measure that has a very low environmental impact.

For more information about dormant oils, follow this link:

Dormant Oil Sprays

Water

Fruit trees need lots of water to produce well. To conserve water I like to keep a heavy layer of mulch around the base of my trees that extends past the drip line. If I do this, I find that I don't need to water in the summer, but not all climates are like mine. If you don't have a watering system in place or you hand water your trees, without proper planning it is easy to wait until your tree is showing signs of stress before the water comes on. I know we are all busy, but if your tree is stressed for water in spring or early summer, you fruit crop will suffer greatly. Stressed trees are also much more susceptible to pests and disease. It is important to make sure your trees are always hydrated.

Never water your fruit trees again?

Water to the drip line of a tree

Fertilizer

Most trees don't need fertilizer, but it really depends on your soil. Getting a soils test can tell you exactly where your soil is deficient, but I find that the heavy layer of mulch mentioned in the previous section usually does the trick. I believe that the best form of mulch is shredded trees from a local arborist. If you think about it, local trees are growing in a soil that is similar to yours. These trees have already found the nutrients from the soil that they needed to stay healthy and by chipping them up, those nutrients will be recycled, break down, and become available to your fruit trees. The best way to get wood chips delivered to your house is by using Chip Drop. This app will notify arborists that are part of their network that you are interested in wood chips, but sometimes it takes several months to get a load, so signup now for a spring or summer delivery.

For more information about Chip Drop, follow this link:

Chip Drop: The good the bad and the ugly!

Chip Drop

Too much fertilizer causes your tree to put on a lot of vegetative growth that is weak and unable to support heavy fruit loads. This vegetative growth is also very attractive to pests and disease. Slow growing trees are stronger and better equipped to support heavy fruit loads.

Never fertilize your fruit trees.

Pests and Diseases

Some fruit trees have the same pests and diseases every year. In these situations you have probably already learned about the problem and found a solution, or at least something to mitigate the problem. If your trees fall into this category, then you will want to monitor your trees closely so that you can time your treatment right. If you put your pest control on a calendar, you might miss your optimal window of treatment. The environmental conditions that trigger pests and diseases will be different every year, but having the products and tools that you need will make sure that you can act as soon as signs of infestation occur.

Harvest

Some of you might be thinking, "I can't be sure that I'm going to harvest anything. Some years I don't" You are right, but that is why I write all of these article so you can harvest each and every year. My goal is for you to harvest more than you know what to do with. In that scenario, you will need a plan out how you are going to use the fruit. Are you going to preserve it, share it, or sell it? Either way you will need to do some planning so your hard work doesn't go to waste.

Apple Harvest in Baskets

For more information about planning your harvest follow this link:

3 ways to use your excess fruit

Ok, now let's talk about the things that you can't plan for.

Pests and Diseases

Some fruit tree pests and diseases are annual, but some aren't. Being blindsided by a new pest after you put in so much work is a gut wrenching feeling. It is important to inspect your trees regularly so that you can identify sudden changes in your tree. You need to know what your tree should look like in order to know when something is wrong.

Grubs in Wood

It's nearly impossible to plan for these suprise attacks, but you can take some time in the off season to learn about common pests and diseases in your area. This will help you to quickly identify them and find a solution quickly.

Acts of God

Hurricanes, tornado, hail, drought, and flooding are all example of Acts of God that happen across the world. When these thing occur there is little that can be done. You may just have to count your losses and pick up the pieces later. These scenarios might give you a chance to start over. Do thing a little different based on what you have learned over the years.

Storm Brewing

Crisis

Death in the family, illness, and injury can bring your gardening to a screeching halt. This is when friends and family can pitch in, but you need to be careful. I had a customer that needed her tree pruned, but when she had a family crisis, a well meaning neighbor lopped the top off of her 60+ year old crabapple with a chain saw. After years of pruning and a sever cases of fire blight it still doesn't look the same. 

Being part of a gardening club or just having friends that love gardening as much as you do can make all of the difference in the world. If you have pets and/or children, where will they go, and who will take care of them in a crisis? You might want to ask the same question about your garden. Find someone you can trust to care for your garden in times of hardship.

Get Well Flowers

Conclusion

Planning can be difficult. It's impossible to see the future. Your plan won't be perfect and you will have to make decisions on the fly, but how well you plan now can affect your fruit harvest in the fall.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to learn more about the care and pruning of fruit trees, please browse our 100+ fruit tree articles here, join our Hobby Fruit Growers Facebook Group, and take our free Fruit Tree Pruning Course. Also, please subscribe to our Fruit Pruning YouTube Channel.